I’ve been struggling to find the right words for the TGIS this week as we watch the news and see the desperation, the disruption and the destruction around us in a time when so little in our lives is stable or certain as it is. But then I found this quote from Fred Rogers (famously known as Mister Rogers, an incredible educator and all round special man) : “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me,” look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
I love that Tanach always seems to speak directly to us and what is happening in our lives. This Motzei Shabbat we will sit on the floor, take off our leather shoes, fast and go into national mourning. We will read Eicha, the poetic Megilla aimed at evoking emotion in an attempt to give us the opportunity to grieve and mourn. We read about streets that are empty, devoid of people. Of buildings destroyed, burnt and razed to the ground even the very foundations are uprooted. We read of the hunger in the streets, children begging their mothers for a morsel of bread and of mothers boiling their children in an absolutely hopeless situation. Hauntingly five times in the first chapter the Megilla repeats “ein menachem” meaning “there is no comfort”. We will read these words and images of what we are seeing in the media will feel eerily familiar and close to home. Indeed there are moments this week when I have thought “ein menachem”.
Eicha is about suffering. Dr Yael Ziegler shares that one of the most poetic lines in the Megilla are the description in chapter 2 verse 3 which says, “Your ruin is as vast as the sea, who can heal you?”. The sea is vast, tumultuous, the waves crash uncontrolled, its depths are dark and difficult to quantify, the saltiness is a hint to tears and never ending crying. The feeling is one of hopelessness and helplessness but Eicha was written to be timeless. There are no statistics, narratives or specific descriptions about the subject matter. It’s a book that is read annually in an attempt to give us a guide to grief and mourning, something that will help us when things feel as desperate and as vast as the ocean.
To understand the essence of the Megilla, we look to the centre of the Megilla which is the third chapter (there are five chapters in total). This is the only chapter written in the first person and the only chapter where the word “tikva” translated as “hope” is found. Gd is described as kind and compassionate but ultimately the change that occurs in the Megilla, the turning point where things shift is when the speaker talks about the faith in mankind. In a person’s ability to acknowledge their wrong, to examine their ways and do better, to return to Hashem. The trigger, the responsibility for a better world comes first and foremost in the betterment of ourselves.
On social media, we are hearing amidst the chaos, amidst the looting and devastation of stories of hope that make you believe in the goodness and kindness of humanity once more. People offering to help paint and fix businesses that are ruined, bakeries changing orders to feed those who can’t access basic food items like bread, people opening homes to strangers to have a hot bath and warm meal and individuals coming together to protect communities and vulnerable businesses. As Fred Rogers quoted his mother saying, “look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
But I’d like to add to that quote. In times of trouble and unrest, you will always find stories of hope in the helpers who are helping but I think Eicha teaches us a slightly different approach. Eicha challenges us to be the helpers. On Tisha B’Av we have the opportunity to take the time to reflect on what we can do to play our part in healing a broken and fractured world. It may be in the form of helping the current situation, but it can also be closer to home. With our Shuls closed again, we find ourselves needing to be creative in our ability to connect with one another. Pick up the phone and call that person that you used to catch up with at the Kiddush Bracha, send a message to the person you used to sit next to in Shul. Grief and trauma can feel so isolating but the power of community is that no one is ever truly alone.
In line with a desire to create a sense of community in a time when we can’t physically come together, our functions sub committee is hard at work brainstorming ideas. There will be guest speakers and food deliveries for upcoming special events. Please consider helping with sponsorship to cover these in the same way that you used to sponsor a Kiddush Bracha for a birthday, anniversary or a yahrzeit.
There’s also a full programme planned for Tisha B’Av starting on Saturday night and most of Sunday, please check the poster attached for details and remember that if you don’t have a copy of Eicha and the Kinnot, you can collect one from the Shul on Thursday or Friday between 9.00 and 14.00.
We are living through incredibly challenging times. But throughout history we have seen examples of individuals who rose above and did remarkable things to make a difference. This Tisha B’Av, take the time to reflect on how you can make a difference, be the helper we all look to so that our faith in humanity can return. May we merit to return to days of old.
הֲשִׁיבֵ֨נוּ יְהוָ֤ה אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ וְֽנָשׁ֔וּבָה חַדֵּ֥שׁ יָמֵ֖ינוּ כְּקֶֽדֶם׃
Take us back, O LORD, to Yourself, And let us come back; Renew our days as of old!
Rabbi, Shalva, Tzuriya, Azriel, Neriya and I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom.